Psychedelic drug DMT could help stroke victims recover by rewiring their brains faster, according to the first clinical trial of its kind.

It is hoped the substance, also known as the ‘the spirit molecule’, could even be given to patients as soon as they’re in the ambulance, minimising the damage and maximising their recovery.

Algernon Pharmaceuticals, who set out the plan for their study this week, say participants will be given a microdose, which won’t make them ‘trip’, but will still help the neurons in their brain make new connections.

If the trial proves successful and gets regulatory approval, it could open up a whole new world of research for people with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and many other conditions affecting the brain.

Among study’s global luminaries is Professor David Nutt, of Imperial College London’s Centre for Psychedelic Research, which has looked into potential for psilocybin (magic mushrooms) to treat depression.

Algernon, based in Vancouver, Canada, are the world’s first company to try using DMT (dimethyltryptamine) for strokes, and if they get promising results, they hope to be fast-tracked by regulators in the US.

CEO Christopher Moreau told Since we’re dealing with stroke patients, we will be using the sub-hallucinogenic dose, which in pre-clinical studies has still shown to improve neuroplasticity.

‘It will help the brain heal even though patients aren’t having the psychedelic experience, and we really don’t want that if your patient has just had a stroke.’


Algernon has been buoyed by a study last year in which blood flow was blocked off for one half of the brain in rats.

Rodents who were given DMT recovered motor-function and rebuilt brain cells more efficiently and had fewer lesions on the brain. ‘

We’re going to take that information now and move very quickly to test it in humans,’ Mr. Moreau said.

He explained how there is still ‘very little available’ for stroke victims in the immediate aftermath and that DMT could help fill the void.

Part of the problem is that two of the main types of stroke are very different and require different types of treatment.

Ischemic strokes occur due to a blood clot blocking a vessel in the brain and are often treated with blood thinner.

But if you did this for someone suffering from a haemorrhagic stroke – caused by bleeding in or around the brain – you could kill them.

For this reason, patients have to wait for a CT scan, which could take hours, leaving more time for the brain to incur damage.

Mr. Moreau said: ‘The sooner you can start to treat post-injury the better. DMT may not benefit hemorrhagic, we don’t know, but we’re hoping it won’t cause them any problems because then we don’t have to wait for the CT scan, we can treat in the ambulance.

‘Stroke is one of the most devastating illnesses someone will experience, and there’s some research going on but no breakthroughs, and this could be quite exciting for medical science and neuroscience that psychedelics.

‘If we can unlock their potential to heal the brain it could be a whole new area of development for other issues too, from MS to Parkinsons and so on.’

Only healthy adults will take part in phase 1 of the trial, which aims to establish if DMT is safe enough for treatment and what doses will and won’t make people hallucinate.

Mr Moreau says the next phase will involve both short term and long term treatment of stroke victims as well as rehabilitation

He added: ‘This is a relatively short trial because it’s an acute event. We’re not treating cancer, which could be a year-long study.

‘An event happens and literally within 24 to 48 hours of a stroke patients are already in rehabilitation.

‘When there’s a resolution, either the bleed is stopped or the blockage is opened, within hours the brain is starting to try to rewire.

‘We don’t know how long that rewiring goes on. There are lots of cases of people who have recovered from a stroke deficit many many months after.

‘Their vision returns or their motor skills come back, so that suggests the brain is in this constant flux of healing and rewiring.’

If results are promising Algernon plans to apply for a ‘breakthrough designation’ with the FDA, meaning the US regulator will work with them to get them over the line faster.

Mr Moreau hopes the fact they are dealing with sub-halloucenegenic doses will work in their favour.

It comes after a clinical study was launched in London to see how DMT could be used to treat people with anxiety and depression, also the first of its kind.

Researchers hope an improvement in neuroplasticity and a disruption of ruminative neural pathways could essentially ‘reset’ the brain and help people achieve breakthroughs in therapy.

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